The New Year brought reminders of old tensions for Toronto fans of two Scottish soccer teams with a deep and long-running rivalry in Northern Ireland.
Members of the Glasgow Rangers Supporters Club arrived at their Scarborough clubhouse Saturday morning to find the front window shattered, a brick lying in shards of glass.
Across a sign bearing their club’s name, a Gaelic message was scrawled in black marker: “Tiocfiadh ar la,” a popular slogan within Northern Ireland’s nationalist movement meaning, “Our day will come.”
Underneath that, another message in black: “Dirty Orange Bastards.”
There are no greater rivals in the Scottish Premier League than Rangers and Celtic, and their fans are split along the political and religious lines that fuelled decades of unrest.
Though based in Scotland, the teams have legions of fans in Northern Ireland. Rangers count Protestant loyalists among their rabid fans. And Celtic attracts equally impassioned support from Catholic nationalists.
Given the graffiti’s political undertones, police will be questioning members of the Toronto Celtic Supporters Club on Midland Ave., a 10-minute drive from the Rangers’ clubhouse on Ellesmere Rd.
“There’s no evidence right now to link them,” only a suspicion from Rangers’ club owners, said Staff Sgt. Kevin Murrell, adding that police have yet to determine whether the incident qualifies as a hate crime.
“You can’t read too much into it, in certain terms, unless you determine who the suspects were and what their motives were in writing that,” Murrell said.
Jim Maxwell, president of the Rangers club, said he suspects someone from the Celtic club is responsible, though he chalks it up to a bit of New Year’s Eve debauchery.
Still, the incident left him a bit uneasy.
“You don’t know if it could happen again. Some silly person had something on their mind and acted on it, I guess,” he said.
The tensions that run high between fans in Northern Ireland — even ending in the beating death of a Catholic as Rangers fans celebrated victory over Celtic in the championship game last year — don’t really exist here, Maxwell said, and Scarborough’s clubhouses are particularly friendly.
They’ve even been known to share a keg of Guinness if one runs out, said a member of the Celtic executive, who would only identify himself as Brian.
“We deplore any action like that against the Rangers club or any other club, for that matter,” he told the Star from the Midland Ave. clubhouse, where fans had gathered Sunday morning to watch the Celtic beat the Rangers 2-0.